Over the last 100 years, there are been monumental advances in firearms. New cartridges, operating mechanisms, gas systems, magazines, and more. However, that same level of technological advancement has not applied to targets. We still shoot the same static targets that our grandfathers did (although we do have splash targets, making them easier to see).
There are three types of targeting systems currently on the market:
- Paper targets, mounted on simple permanent or mechanical platforms.
- Steel/Plastic, which swing, fall down, or roll.
- Electro-mechanical systems, which “range from the primitive to the exceedingly expensive.”
Targamite LLC, based out of my native Fort Wayne, Indiana, is the brainchild of Gary Kaufman and a partnership with a local electronics company. Just now going into production, Targamite has made a splash across the net over the past two months. Both Jerry Miculek and TNOutdoors9 (pictured above with Gary) have put up videos showing the bot’s capabilities.
Gary was originally a California lawyer starting as a IP litigator and then practicing in the in the entertainment industry. Not originally a hard-core shooter, Gary rediscovered shooting after after an interesting encounter. He describes it best:
It all started just a few years ago when a co-worker rushed into my office, furtively closing the door behind him and asked, half-jokingly, “Do you have a girl out there you shouldn’t be seeing?” “Pardon me!?!” I responded, obviously surprised by the odd query. “Well,” he continued, in all seriousness now, “I think her brother and a really mean and ugly friend are in the front asking for you and scaring the hell out of the receptionist up there…”
As it turned out, the two men were thuggish emissaries, dispatched by someone against whom I had taken a hard position after he had breached a business transaction with the company for which I was working at the time (I was a practicing lawyer for over 15 years and old habits die hard). Even though the police ultimately became involved, threats against myself and my family continued for some time. But the intimidation tactic did not work; it just motivated me.
The menacing situation naturally gave rise to thoughts of self-defense and the protection of my family. I had dabbled in target and varmint shooting throughout my life, but had very little familiarity with the use of firearms in a more self-defensive or “tactical” context. I dug the dusty Glock out of my bedside drawer, the model 19 I had shot only once during the four years I had owned it, and joined the local gun club.
The technological advances in firearms has generally driven down costs but it has been the opposite for target systems. Advanced target systems are expensive, specialty solutions, typically only available for high-budget departments and the military. Gary saw an opening in the market for a low-cost, portable, and dynamic targeting system. Combining his ideas with local engineering talent, the TargaBot was born.
The real problem is that in dynamic high-stress environments shooters have a tendency to lose focus of their sights and focus on the target. Current methods to simulate this experience are dangerous and/or very expensive. The TargaBot was created to help shooters practice focusing on their sights. It is to be “another stage of target engagement.”
Development of the TargaBot has been rapid. The first Targabot prototype was finished only early last year and the first 100 production units are now on order pending assembly. Gary expects them to ship late May or early June.
The bot itself is a fully programmable robot mounted to a tripod capable of rotation and extension of a target mounted on the end of a PVC pole. The bot can be programmed to do just about anything within its range of motion. Custom sequences can be drawn with a mouse or shooters can set it on what I will call “mad man mode” which is random movements with no dwell time. (Gary says Jerry was able to hit it 11 of 13 times in this mode… wow!). My test-firing had some dwell time:
The TargaBot can be either locally or remotely controlled with the included remote. Basic functionality is built into the control panel on the bot body and on the controller. (Current range is about 1000 yards. R/C frequency remotes will be the next step for ranges up to 1.5 miles). The Bot is powered off of an internal battery good for use “all day” under normal conditions. The bot can handle any caliber through the target, just not the bot itself. The bot can handle targets up to “a few pounds.”
The bot itself is not designed to take a hit, but there is an optional AR-500 plate to cover the bot during shooting sessions. The PVC extension pole is designed to take hits and break. The good news is that it is an easy replacement. Just remove the old pole and insert the new one.
After the overview, we headed into the back of the shop to test-fire one of the bots. Equipped with a C02 M1911A1 airsoft gun, Gary challenged me to hit the bot on what was described as an easy setting. As a decent multi-gunner I initially had a challenge shooting it (think the first time you shot a Texas Star), but picked it up quickly. After missing two shots, the rest were on paper. Still, groupings at 10′ were bad.
The bot was easily set up and powered on. Even at short range, it was nearly silent operation. In an active range, there will be no indication that the target will soon be appearing. The bot took the shots from the airsoft gun well with no wobble. The bot takes live rounds are even easier, since they pass right through instead of imparting energy into the target.
I am personally excited to see development of low-cost dynamic targets. Gary and Targamite are the first company with a completed product and will be the trend-setter for the foreseeable future. With excellent features now and great ideas for the future, I wish Targamite the best. Its a step in the right direction.
Gary will hopefully have a bot to spare for the next local multi-gun. I am friends with the stage planner. My guess is that we will put this out over 200 meters… Ha!
Finishing up: Jerry Miculek going akimbo with two TargaBots:
- Up & Down or 180° Rotational Movement Patterns or COMBINATIONS OF BOTH FUNCTIONS
- Light Weight for One Person Portability
- Autonomously or Remote Controlled
- Battery or AC Powered
- User Programmable: Comes with Built-In Sequence Patterns or Create Your Own on Your PC
Targabots Offer Trainers & Shooters:
- A new dimension of challenge and training engagement through user-programmable robotics
- Reduction of time allocated to operator marksmanship and small arms skills development
- Enhancement of live-fire predictive engagement and marksmanship capabilities
- Produces dramatic improvement in critical rapid target acquisition effectiveness
- Random movement sequencing that more closely reflects unpredictable “field” conditions
- Random switching between “good guy” / “bad guy” / “hostage” targets
- Improvement of the operator’s ability to discern and react to enemy vs. non-combatants
- Complex, variable movement sequencing within a small footprint
- User programmability and simulation (via an easy graphic-oriented computer interface)
- Wireless remote control options (real-time sequencing by the user or trainer)
- Adaptability to accommodate different training requirements
- Difficulty and complexity ramping to accommodate individual user progress and pacing
- Networking of multiple units to create complex training and rehearsal scenarios
- Portability (less than 20 lbs. – one-person deployable)
- Long-distance control capability for the sniper and designated marksman
- Compatibility with all existing paper target formats
- Will accept future optional Laser Targets, Hit Counter and Virtual Gongs
- Battery or AC power (field or range deployable)
- Adaptors for hanging Targabots behind standard AR steel targets and other barriers
- Low price – the same cost as many static steel targets
- Easily deployed inside or outside; close or far down range; in shoot houses; behind vehicles
- Deploy behind barriers, around corners, or opposite doorways to maximize unpredictability
- Create complex hostage and combatant scenarios with multiple Targabots
- The Targabot chassis requires only approximately 12” x 12” protective cover
- Exposed plastic shafts and target mounts are designed to be shot and inexpensively replaced
Pricing and Availability:
- MSRP: $2,995
- Government Price: $2,495
- Special Introductory Pricing On the First 100 Units Ordered Before Release: $2,395
- Volume Discount: 10% Off All Units Purchased On Orders of 3 or More Units
- Term Financing Available To Qualified Purchasers: 1, 2 and 3 Year
- Limited Warranty: 1 Year (Extended Warranties Available)
- Available: Q2 2014